Asian action has left the Saudi Professional League’s giants with contrasting emotions headed into round four.
Elsewhere, the top flight’s trademark churn of coaches is now in full swing. Here are the talking points:
NASSR NEED A RESPONSE
When Al Nassr striker Abderrazak Hamdallah piquantly put fingers to his lips in celebration and shushed the Al Sadd hordes, a first AFC Champions League semi-final seemed a certainty.
The value of this away goal was, though, stripped away in a ruinous 3-1 defeat. Cold analysis points to Nassr’s reticence to attack, inviting pressure they could not endure with only four foreigners.
In the capricious micro-environment of Saudi football, one big loss is enough to undo great work. Tailspins swiftly gain momentum – just ask Zoran Mamic about Al Hilal.
This was still only the sixth reversal in 30 matches under coach Rui Vitoria. Faith in his project should remain steadfast though, for now, beginning with Friday’s rebound versus winless Al Hazem.
The axiom ‘too much of a good thing’ could spring to mind ahead of a third Saudi El Clasico in three weeks.
But this does disservice to how deep the fault lines lie between Al Ittihad and Al Hilal, plus the entertainment doled out in Tuesday’s Asian thriller.
August’s staid goalless 152nd derby exploded into a 3-1 second-leg win for Hilal, from which they pumped in 26 attempts. Ittihad, however, unsettled from set-pieces, rattled the woodwork via Romarinho and had goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni to blame for two goals.
What better way to gain instant revenge than derailing Hilal’s domestic ambitions?
ALL CHANGE AT THE TOP
So, it is goodbye to Al Ahli Jeddah’s disconnected Branko Ivankovic and underwhelming Al Wehda tactician Mario Cvitanovic.
And in unique Saudi fashion, both went following Wehda’s 2-1 victory at Ahli last Saturday.
For Wehda, the availability of ex-Nassr (twice) and Al Shabab boss Jose Daniel Carreno proved too tempting. A date with Fayha beckons on Friday for the Uruguayan.
Circumspection should be undertaken in Jeddah about why Ivankovic’s rampant success with Iran’s Persepolis did not translate. Caretaker Saleh Al Mohammadi will oversee Saturday’s journey to Al Fateh.
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